[36] Old Mary, John Means

The sun-room is full of old people and I am one of them. Those of us who had not cared whether we lived or died were full of ourselves to come out of our rooms and be olds together again. No matter…it’s overcast.

We lost seven during the fifty-nine-day quarantine. Five men and two old women. Now there were three new olds.

One of them looked like Mary, my high school girlfriend, but I thought the two months of isolation was playing with my perception.

I had not seen her since 1962. One of the last things she told me was, “I don’t want us to lose control.” That was an expression for what caused a couple in love to “go all the way.” She said this just before terminating our relationship.

She gave me no reason, but here we are again, and there’s no danger of losing control now. We’ve already lost it. We are old, and I was amazed, in disbelief, that Mary was no longer young. She was young the last time I saw her.

I had never dreamed a high school girl could become an old. It’s O. K. for us guys, and maybe this sounds sexist, but it’s just not fair for girls to grow old and die. We guys are supposed to protect them from things like that. That’s what we were taught back then. We had about as much control over that as we did over the virus that just swept through this old place.

Mary was always shy. Seeing her sitting over there by the window all by herself, I am afraid for her, and there’s not a thing I can do.

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